The Variegated Fairywren (Malurus lamberti) is a fairywren that lives in diverse habitats across most of Australia. Four subspecies are recognised. In a species that exhibits sexual dimorphism, the brightly coloured breeding male has chestnut shoulders and blue crown and ear coverts, while non-breeding males, females and juveniles have predominantly grey-brown plumage, although females of the subspecies rogersi and dulcis (previously termed Lavender-flanked Fairywren) have mainly blue-grey plumage. Like other fairywrens, the Variegated Fairywren is a cooperative breeding species, with small groups of birds maintaining and defending small territories year-round. Groups consist of a socially monogamous pair with several helper birds who assist in raising the young. Male wrens pluck yellow petals and display them to females as part of a courtship display. These birds are primarily insectivorous and forage and live in the shelter of scrubby vegetation across 90% of continental Australia, which is a wider range than that of any other fairywren. The Variegated Fairywren was officially described by Nicholas Aylward Vigors and Thomas Horsfield in 1827, and was at first considered a colour variant of the Superb Fairywren. The scientific name commemorates the British collector Aylmer Bourke Lambert. It is one of 12 species of the genus Malurus, commonly known as fairywrens, found in Australia and lowland New Guinea. Within the genus it belongs to a group of four very similar species known collectively as Chestnut- shouldered Fairywrens. The other three species are localised residents in restricted regions of Australia: the Lovely Fairywren (M. amabilis) of Cape York, the Red-winged Fairywren (M. elegans) of the southwest corner of Western Australia, and the Blue-breasted Fairywren (M. pulcherrimus) of southern Western Australia and the Eyre Peninsula. A 2011 analysis by Amy Driskell and colleagues of mitochondrial and nuclear DNA found that the Lovely Fairywren was nested within the Variegated Fairywren complex, and was the sister taxon of the Purple-backed subspecies assimilis. Like other fairywrens, the Variegated Fairywren is unrelated to the true wrens. Initially fairywrens were thought to be a member of the old world flycatcher family Muscicapidae or warbler family Sylviidae, before being placed in the newly recognised Maluridae in 1975. More recently, DNA analysis has shown the family to be related to Meliphagidae (honeyeaters) and the Pardalotidae in a large superfamily Meliphagoidea.
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